Houston Rockets: Rafael Stone keeps it flexible like Daryl Morey
When Rafael Stone took over the Houston Rockets the franchise was in a precarious situation. The team still employed James Harden, a true superstar, but the cupboard had been left bare after years of flipping future assets for present production.
The team was up against the salary-cap and without many future draft picks and then when James Harden decided that he wanted to leave the team had no real route to contention. The situation demanded dire changes to the franchise’s finances and draft pick situation and Stone has thus far delivered.
Through trades, Stone has added six first-round picks and four pick swaps and he might not be done collecting picks as P.J. Tucker and Victor Oladipo could be moved this season. What Stone has also been able to do is to get the Rockets in a position to have financial flexibility.
Through trading Harden to the Nets and landing Oladipo on an expiring contract the Rockets’ salary commitments next season is only at $86.9 million. While being in a good financial situation is not usually conducive to winning, it does help to accelerate rebuilds.
The Rockets are now in a position where they can take on teams’ bad contracts in exchange for draft picks or interesting young talent. Stone will likely try to be the third wheel, so to speak, in upcoming trades to try and land Houston talent in the way that the Cavaliers landed Jarett Allen from the Nets as part of the Harden trade.
Thanks to Stone’s shrewd moves the Rockets are in a position to get back to contention on their own terms. It seems ages ago but this was the exact position that Daryl Morey got the Rockets in after their failed attempt to build a championship-caliber team around Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.
While injuries derailed their attempts then, Morey was able to collect enough assets and interesting talent in the aftermath to strike a deal for James Harden and change the franchise’s trajectory. The Rockets built a contender out of thin air back then and Stone is in a position to do it once more.
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